Pegged by many as the so-called billionaire space race, three entrepreneurs at the forefront of the space industry are not only proving that private companies can succeed in this once highly restricted field, but that they and their respective ventures can actually lead the way forward into a new age of space travel and exploration.
SpaceX (Elon Musk), Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos), and Virgin Galactic (Sir Richard Branson) have carved unique niches in the ever-evolving medium of space. SpaceX has a firm grasp on commercial aspects while Blue Origin aims for colonizing space and Virgin Galactic has its sights set on space tourism.
Each of these companies brings something unique to the table. So how do these new generation space travel stalwarts compare? Read on to learn about their unique mission statements, major accomplishments, and ambitious plans that are literally out of this world.
SpaceX vs Blue Origin vs Virgin Galactic
The big three of the still-evolving private space industry were all founded by mega-entrepreneurs who rose to fame (and substantial wealth) through non-space business ventures. And each has entered the ring with the common aim of revolutionizing space travel but with unique objectives in mind and different visions as to how to achieve their missions.
Here is a snapshot of how SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic compare:
Their Stated Missions and Primary Objectives
If there is one attribute that is shared by the leaderships of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, it is the setting of ambitious goals. Here is a look at the stated missions of these three pioneering companies:
- SpaceX’s mission to make “humanity multiplanetary” is well underway and has the red planet Mars squarely in its sights with the reusable Starship rocket program as the primary platform
- Blue Origin also embraces rocket reusability as the key component to its mission to preserve the planet by tapping into space’s “unlimited resources and energy”, likening the new age of space travel and exploration to the Industrial Revolution of the modern era
- Virgin Galactic’s mission to “democratize space” will depend largely on the success of its space tourism model whereby the world’s first spaceline (as opposed to airline) will offer regular “flights” to space from its Spaceport America in New Mexico
In their own unique way, each of these three companies has contributed substantially to the furtherance of private industry’s growing role in space travel and exploration.
Key Accomplishments so Far
Recent years have witnessed the accomplishment of major achievements and milestones by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, lending strong credibility to the notion that the future of space travel and exploration is in very good hands. Here is a sampling of key accomplishments by each of these companies thus far:
- SpaceX has the longest list of accomplishments with several big feathers in its cap including being the first private company to send its spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) and later transporting people to the ISS, and perhaps most notably, being selected by NASA to send the first astronauts to the moon since 1972
- On July 11, 2021, Virgin Galactic launched its spacecraft to the edge of space (53.5 miles above the Earth) carrying among its passengers Virgin Galactic’s founder and chief space enthusiast Richard Branson
- Not to be outdone, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos boarded his company’s suborbital rocket, New Shepard, and blasted off to an altitude of 62 miles above the Earth’s surface a few weeks later
Though impressive in their own right, these achievements are being touted as steps toward larger goals with far-reaching implications that go far beyond the nearest fringes of space. Ultimately, if these companies succeed in their quests, traveling to space will not be nearly as newsworthy because it will be a regular occurrence.
What Lies Ahead for SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic
As noteworthy and exciting as their accomplishments have been thus far, bigger things and loftier goals lie ahead for SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. Here is a look at what to expect:
- SpaceX has formally begun testing the engines for its new Starship SN20 rockets. The Starship program is the centerpiece of SpaceX’s long-game mission to transport passengers and cargo to the moon and ultimately, Mars. (SpaceX recently submitted a successful bid to NASA to carry astronauts and gear to the moon.)
- Meanwhile, Blue Origin has made it known that by the end of the decade, it intends to launch “Orbital Reef”, a commercial space station that will orbit the earth and will comprise a space-based 32,000 square foot “mixed-use business park” with accommodations for ten people, an onboard research facility and a hotel.
- Last but not least, Virgin Galactic is moving forward with plans for its next crewed suborbital space mission (dubbed Unity 23 with members of the Italian Air Force onboard) to take place in 2023 and is currently taking reservations for future Virgin Galactic space flights from passengers willing to pay the $450,000 fare.
SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic have all revealed ambitious goals in the years ahead, and judging from past successes and the track records of their respective founders, there is no reason not to believe that all three companies will meet, if not exceed, these visionary pursuits.
It was not long ago that the notion of privatizing space travel and exploration was dismissed as being impractical and unsustainable. As the accomplishments of private space ventures continue to stack up and grab global headlines, those concerns have been irrefutably put to rest.